U police work holiday to bust drunk drivers

Turkey isnâÄôt the only thing people abuse during Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving holiday, which includes Wednesday to Sunday, is one of the deadliest times to drive in Minnesota, according to the State Patrol. From 2005 to 2007, 23 people died in traffic accidents during the holiday weekend. Thirteen were alcohol-related crashes. Since this time period includes Sunday, 2008 statistics were unavailable as of Daily press time. State Patrol Lt. Mark Peterson said police from around the state work overtime to help increase patrolling on one of MinnesotaâÄôs âÄúmost popular nights for impaired driving.âÄù Several University police officers helped patrol this year as part of a statewide program called Operation Concentrated Alcohol Patrol, or âÄúNightCAP.âÄù Funded by the federal government, Operation NightCAP puts overtime officers on extra patrols in MinnesotaâÄôs 15 deadliest counties, which includes Hennepin and Ramsey counties, according to Operation NightCAPâÄôs website. This holiday, police patrolled 13 counties, Peterson said. University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said the University of Minnesota area makes sense for patrols. A lot of traffic comes through and around the University because many highway interchanges and ramps surround campus. In Operation NightCAP, police pull over people they witness breaking the law. This number is traditionally much higher than normal during the Thanksgiving weekend, Peterson said. In 2007, NightCAP officers arrested 2,541 people for impaired driving, and cited 15,966, most of which were in Hennepin County, Peterson said. But drunk driving doesnâÄôt stop with Thanksgiving, and neither does Operation NightCAP. The program runs year round to fight drunk driving, a serious State Patrol concern. In 2006, police reported around 42,000 incidents in which drivers were under the influence, and in 2007 there were more, Peterson said. To combat drunk driving, Operation NightCAP doesnâÄôt usually announce when patrols will be beefed-up. âÄúThe goal here isnâÄôt to stop people from having a good time,âÄù Peterson said.âÄù âÄúThe whole idea is for [drunk drivers] to believe that theyâÄôre going to get caught.âÄù In 2006, University police arrested 184 people for drunk driving, but in 2007, that number dropped to 145. Miner said many of these arrestees arenâÄôt student drivers, but other people around campus. Check back at mndaily.com for updates.